Photo: AP Photo
This just breaking over the Bloomberg, legendary businessman Saul Steinberg has died.Steinberg is best known for using his computer leasing company, Leasco, to take over the much larger Reliance Insurance Corporation in 1968. His son Jonathan is married to CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo. His daughter Laura was once married to Jonathan Tisch.
Steinberg founded Leasco in 1961 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton. The company went public in 1965.
The takeover of Reliance Insurance cemented Steinberg’s status as a corporate takeover legend, though he did have setbacks. He failed to take over Chemical Bank in the 1960s and Disney in the 1980s.
Another success — Steinberg was involved in the creation of Spanish language station, Telemundo in the 1980s.
But the 90s were rough on Steinberg. His company suffered with the collapse of the junk bond market, and he suffered a stroke in 1995.
His ex-wife (the 2nd of three and mother of Saul’s children) Laura, told NY Magazine:
“Saul before and Saul now — it’s two different people,” says Laura Steinberg. “The first few days, his doctors didn’t know whether he would die. It took him three days to stabilise.”
Says a Steinberg acquaintance: “Saul Steinberg’s massive stroke was the most underplayed bit of news in the world. Nobody really wanted anybody to know how ill he was. It would be bad for business.”
Indeed the news was unknown until it was leaked to CNBC.
Reliance when bankrupt in 2001, and Steinburg was forced to sell 740 Park Avenue duplex (which he bought from the Rockefellers) to Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman for $37 million (the highest price paid for an apartment in NYC at the time). He also sold 61 Old Masters and 293 lots of furniture at Sotheby’s.
On April 4, Saul Steinberg and his wife, Gayfryd, threw open the mahogany doors of their 17,000-square-foot Park Avenue aerie for the very last time. At noon, 200 students from the New York School of Interior Design began trooping through the cavernous salons and sitting rooms to gape at the Old Master paintings and elaborate antiques — the British rococo chairs and ormolu tables, the Chinese armorial porcelain — that were all soon to be sold.
Later that evening, once the students had dispersed, the Steinbergs descended from their bedroom to host a cocktail party for 150, a tribute to their late friend and decorator Mark Hampton. By Steinberg standards, it was a rather spartan affair, featuring just canapés and cocktails. Saul, 61, shuffled from room to room before retiring early, while Gayfryd — wearing an Indian-inspired Oscar de la Renta jacket over a T-shirt — lingered downstairs, chatting up Blaine Trump and Mica Ertegun.
“They tried to make it cheerful and upbeat,” says Duane Hampton, the decorator’s widow, “rather than a sad we’re leaving kind of thing.”
Our condolences to Steinberg’s family.